UNEMPLOYMENT has fallen for the first time in almost a year, leaving 2.65 million people out of work, new figures showed this week.

The total dipped by 35,000 in the quarter to February, giving a jobless rate of 8.3%, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

In the South-West region there are now 179,000 people out of work, a slight rise of 4,000 on three months ago, giving a jobless rate in the region of 6.7%.

Other figures from the ONS reveal the number of unemployed women nationally increased by 8,000 in the latest quarter to 1.14 million, the highest figure for almost 25 years.

Mike Fetters, director at jobs website totaljobs.com, said: "These figures flatter to deceive. Whilst on the surface they look rosier than those of the past few months, they hide a number of concerns - not least the staggeringly high levels of underemployment.

“Despite the figures, we expect unemployment to continue to rise through 2012, albeit more slowly than previously."

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “We are far from out of the woods yet. By recklessly aborting the economic recovery under way in the UK in 2010, the Government has stopped 400,000 young workers getting a job.

“Job creation now under way in the US economy would also have been well under way in the UK too were it not for a deliberate act of Government policy.”

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: "These figures are a step in the right direction but we still have a long way to go. We are pushing ahead with our strategy to promote investment and new jobs in the private sector and support people currently without work to take up those jobs.

“I am particularly encouraged that overall employment is now growing despite reductions in the public sector.

“There are still economic challenges ahead and the Government is reacting by helping people to find employment through initiatives with the private sector at their heart."